Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove, home to about 500 mature giant sequoias, has re-opened to the general public after a three-year restoration designed to project to protect the ancient trees and reestablish the area’s natural serenity.
“As the largest protection, restoration and improvement project in park history, this milestone reflects the unbridled passion so many people have to care for Yosemite so that future generations can experience majestic places like Mariposa Grove,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds. “These trees sowed the seeds of the national park idea in the 1800s and because of this incredible project it will remain one of the world’s most significant natural and cultural resources.”
The ancient trees, considered some of the largest living things on Earth, have been off-limits to the general public since park officials closed Mariposa Grove in 2015.
“The grove restoration occurred because tens of thousands of people all invested in protecting a unique natural phenomenon,” said Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean. “Trails are supposed to take visitors someplace magical. Today, a walk in the grove has been transformed into a more beautiful and peaceful experience with the focus squarely on the trees.”
With the refurbished grove, comes an all new visitor experience. While guests were once able to park amidst the trees, parking is now contained at a new Welcome Plaza near the park’s South Entrance. From the plaza, visitors can take a free two-mile shuttle ride to the Grove Arrival Area, where a natural habitat has replaced what was once a parking area.
Four miles of new trails have been built, including converting many roads within the grove to trails. Many trails are now composed of natural surfaces instead of pavement. All told, the refurbishment removed 20,500 feet of asphalt or 1.44 acres.
“There is wetland or vegetation that was once pavement, but it’s impossible to know by looking now what was there before,” said Dean. “It is a remarkable transformation.”
A new trail provides access to people of all abilities who wish to explore the famous California Tunnel Tree and the Grizzly Giant. One of the grove’s largest trees, the Grizzly Giant is 209 feet tall and an estimated 1,800 years old. The grove also provides a home to more than 70 wildlife species, including such rare species as pallid bats, Pacific fishers and spotted owls.
Some 600 feet of boardwalk and bridges have been installed to protect sequoia roots and to keep visitors above sensitive wetland areas. The elevated boardwalk has also replaced a culvert that once blocked the water flow of Rattlesnake Creek, so the creek has resumed its natural flow.
Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley were protected in 1864 as part of the Yosemite Grant Act, the nation’s first legislation focused on preserving public lands. The National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy donors each provided $20 million to fund the $40 million project.
The Mariposa Grove re-opening provides visitors the perfect opportunity to snap Instagram selfies among the giant trees, for a chance to win prizes during the National Park Foundation’s #PicYourPark photo contest.
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